The camera writes with light into the dark recesses of a viewer’s soul.
Think of a shot given here below. It is also taken as with other sketches from Vampyr.
To continue from where I left of, by setting the stage for the viewer to follow a predetermined path,-from A to B and beyond,the viewer gets more than what he or she bargained for.
While we followed the protagonist Allan Gray we are also shown some images he could not have possibly seen. We see a figure with a scythe slung over his shoulder heading towards the river. He rings the bell as indicated in the sketch.
The figure with his back towards us is indistinguishable. Being primed for a spooky world the first image that comes into our mind is of the grim reaper. Our sensibilities owing to the Western culture have decided that- Grim Reaper as death. It is thus we have seen it many times symbolized. Is he death or a peasant? He is in all probability ringing the bell for the boatman to ferry him across.
Be that as it may we have already become participants to do as the all-seeing eye bids us to do.
Cinema as an art is all about a ‘contrived eye’ with which the viewer is more than willing to go with what it wants to supply us. We also bring in our level of understanding and prejudices. In short by suspending our disbelief we have become more than passive accomplices in order to complete the visual experience.
In order to understand we only need to think of the film Psycho, the bathroom scene where Janet Leigh is murdered. A viewer believes she was stabbed several times but it was all in the mind. Cinematic art has conspired to give you that added proof of complicity: from what was actually presented to view you concluded the murder was indeed part of it.
You look at the images and want to believe what you ought to have seen.
In conclusion let me put it thus. We claim that we belong to a visual generation. We often look than see things. Cinema as an art has power to move us and is cathartic experience to put ourselves in someone else shoes and understand our world. Being a visual generation we have also been assailed with commercials. We may switch it off where we exercise our rational mind. What if let ourselves taken in and watch? By suspending disbelief have we not made ourselves vulnerable? In a consumer society is it art or your money that they are after? How many commercials we see? Can wee see through the jingle and understand we have been shortchanged by what images and sounds thrown at us? No wonder the deceptive art has made us buy more things than we really need.
Cinema has the power to elevate our experience as well as debase us. Vampyr is not one of the best in the body of Carl Theodor Dreyer’s works. Yet the work of genius Dreyer,Ozu,Bergman offers us many things to learn from. The Day of Wrath,the Passion of Joan of Arc, Ordet are great works of Dreyer that will stand the test of time.
Posts Tagged ‘cinema’
The camera writes with light into the dark recesses of a viewer’s soul.
The camera for the purpose of a cinematic narrative serves as an all-seeing eye. Even the God Almighty has a script of sorts,- poetic justice it is known in common usage, and why not for cinema? It is written by camera using light as its pen. The film Vampyr is about a young man Allan Gray who descends upon a desolate village by the river. He has his fishing gear and is nattily dressed to indicate he is not one of the locals.
Here the first two sketches show him stepping onto the land and in the other he is knocking at the door of an inn. The camera follows him at eye level creating an intimacy with the viewer. It is narrating visually his movement from A to B. The title cards have already supplied some information as well as those additional details we gather as to his dress and deportment. Mr. Gray is a visitor and he is very much onto occult world. His purpose there is to find more about the supernatural world of vampires, werewolves etc., With this much the viewer is mentally prepared for what to expect. It is a spooky world all right for the impressionable young dreamer to pass through a twilight world where the real and surreal worlds are not clearly marked.
Not much has happened while following simple movement from A to B. We see in the thumbnail sketches 2 to 4 the cutout of the dark victory (the Still#1 of yesterday) and camera pans to show us the board below. It bears just one word ‘Hotel’ and is dimly seen.
The camera is all seeing eye and it has now quietly taken position to give us a glimpse of him as an outsider seeking lodging for the night. #5
The camera is still at eye level and not intrusive so we go along with him. The shot is now from the road to indicate his knocks are not answered. Suddenly we see the skylight creaking and a child asking the man to go around. See sketch #6 The sudden jerk of the camera angle to pull the viewer’s eye up gives the first jolt of the unexpected.
The camera had already hooked us with a few images along the movement and the sequences where he is told to go around establishes a continuity from the point B.
In order to achieve this the sudden unusual angle of the dark rooftop with a girl at the skylight gives the movement
an emotional ‘go, go command.’ Naturally we are also gripped with the mystery as to what is to follow. It is only possible since we have become an accomplice of the camera eye as we followed Mr. Gray from A to B
Hold of the all-seeing eye is from built from sequence of images. It creates rhythm and the emotional responses created by it are like a bank that we have opened up. Suspension of disbelief to use a term coined by the poet Coleridge. It is dynamic and it is what the eye intends to exploit. The fear of the secluded inn with an uninviting door, getting no response to the knocking has been partly transferred to us. We have also become involved spectators. The ordinary intimacy of camera tracking a character and the unexpected ,where a skylight opens instead of a door which one in normal circumstances expect,are as much mysteries thrown to us.
The other day I saw Carl Th. Dreyer’s Vampyr (1932). As an artist I enjoy cinema at different levels. So I need to see a film several times in order to satisfy my needs. While I sketched out the dark sign above the inn of dark victory with a palm frond it struck me that spiky leaves are echoed in the title. still-2
It may be deliberate or it may be that I am reading into it more than necessary. What I want to stress here is that cinema is a mongrel muse where the best traditions of theater,architecture,photography music,costume all find its home. Besides art it is required production values are kept at its highest standard as well as production costs are kept within the limits.
As an artist I am concerned say with a composition of particular frame as shown in the first still. In cinema or a motion picture it is unnecessary interruption. In fact it is deadly to hold up the flow of sequences in order to admire a certain camera angle and chiaroscuro from any specific point. In that fluidity of camera, emotions of a viewer are carried over and art of cinema makes certain sacrifices of several arts in order to keep the integrity of the cinema. The art of cinema is, in short, not sum of individual arts in its natural spontaneity but reined in for the overall art of cinema.
Thus the voice over is not human speech but voice suitably modulated by mechanical means to give the viewers a lucid understanding of what is going on. The sets are props which are only simulated to keep reality as much as needed for the moment. Coming back to compositions of each frame it is totally unnecessary. The still is for publicity and not for the main event. In short there is an exclusion principle where art mixed and matched have it all as a total package and for individual art it is only incidental.
Posted in Aesop, fables, history, Aesop and the Ass, modern fable, tagged adapting books for films, Benny Thomas, books,, cinema, fables, montage, transposition, visual medium on November 27, 2011 | Leave a Comment »
The Angel Who Drew Pictures ©
Angel Gamaliel once flew in the direction of Cairo and saw the great throng that weaved through the busy market place. ‘There must be some matter of great import and requires my careful attention,’ thought the angel. So he zoomed straight into the north-west minaret of the Mosque of Blessed virtues and saw a mule driver tagging behind the crowd. Becoming curious he flew towards him and whispered into his ears, ‘What, are you also with the crowd?’
The fellow shrugged his shoulder and without looking up said, ‘My mule just would not go any where that I had a mind to but follow the crowd. So I just followed.’ Poor Angel! He thought he never heard more sorry excuse from the mouth of a man.
That night the angel visited the mule driver while he was asleep. Angel knew he slept like a log too tired to think even a sweet dream. The angel drew a series of pictures and knew the mule driver would be well for it.
Next morning the fellow was all astir with excitement. He told his wife excitedly what befell him during the night. She had brought him tea and she was excited and asked what was it all about.
‘Is it some buried treasure, oh light of my eyes?’ He shook his head and said his dream was much more than that. He said the dream showed him what was wrong with the city. He said as clear as a bell and in clear stream of words a utopian state . It was modeled as Cairo. He exhorted his neighbors who had heard something curious and come to check. He said, ‘Heed the warning: The city must be saved from damnation and people should work for their livelihood. Blessed state is when each citizen has enough to fill his belly with food.’
Naturally those who heard were excited. One fellow who knew how to read and write told him thus, ‘O prophet recite what you have seen. I shall write it down so the city of Cairo shall be the most blessed city in the whole world.’ Thus the prophet of Perfect Understanding gave the inhabitants of Cairo their Word and they were so taken up with it. Naturally since from that day on not a day’s work was done. They spent reciting the words and learning by heart the Word. At last the Khedive sent reports to the Sultan of the change taking place under his suzerainty. Naturally one morning the prophet was called to answer the charges that he had incited people not to work any more. Angel Gamaliel came to hear of this and instantly he came down and sat on a parapet in the Palace courtyard where the Khedive was hearing the case. The Mule- Driver deposed before the governor the dream that he had. ‘It was a revelation, O master. I could not have gone against it.’ He narrated the series of images that had impressed into his mind’s eye as he was asleep.
The angel snorted to hear the images and exclaimed, ‘Poppycock! And as the mule driver ended his speech he said, ‘Nothing of the sort. I painted the blessed state of a man to have his own opinions and freedom of action. ’
When the prophet was reciting what the mule driver had told him the Angel stood up wearily, ‘I draw pictures in vain in the minds of man. He cannot obviously see the difference between images and words.’ Angel Gamaliel flew off feeling put out by his waste of effort.
Prophets are merely putting certain images in words and they shall never hit it off correctly. Think of great books when adapted for films need to be treated differently. Several descriptive passages need to be said in a montage of images. Why the difference? The film is a different medium where images have to serve in place of words. The Prophets speak truth and those who cannot understand the difference between their vision and their words read between the lines, neither true nor 100% false. Only way one can prove his meaning is in his actions.
The following film list is my personal choice. There are quite a few others which I could have included but then I had to stick to the number. b.
La Grande Illusion-1937
The Seventh Seal-1956
The Best Years Of Our Lives-1946
Five Easy Pieces-1970
The Passion of Joan of Arc-1928
The African Queen-1951
The Bicycle Thief-1947
A Streetcar Named Desire-1951
The Grapes Of Wrath-1940
Singin’ In The Rain-1952
The Third Man-1949
The Treasure Of Sierra Madre-1948
All About Eve-1950
Lawrence Of Arabia-1962
On The Waterfront-1954
À Nous La Liberté-1931
Two Films By Jean Vigo: 1933-34
Zéro de Conduite
Some Like It Hot-1959
Bonnie And Clyde-1967
The Philadelphia Story-1940
Mutiny On The Bounty-1935
It’s A Wonderful Life-1946
Battleship Of Potemkin-1925
La Dolce Vita-1960
The Wizard Of Oz-1939
The Bridge On The River Kwai-1957
Les Enfants du Paradis-1945
Touch of Evil-1958
How Green Was My Valley-1941
Gone With The Wind-1939
Knife In The Water-1962
The Maltese Falcon-1941
La Symphonie Pastorale-1946
Wages Of Fear-1952
My Fair Lady-1964
Room At The Top-1959
Closely Watched Trains-1966
The Shop On The Main Street-1965
Intimate Lighting, 1965
Drifting Clouds- 1996
The Bank Dick-1940
Jules et Jim-1962
Crime of Monsieur Lange-1936
One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest-1975
Kind Hearts And Coronets-1949
La Bête Humaine-1938
-Le Jour Se Lève-1939
-Le Quai des Brumes-1938
Aguirre, The Wrath of God-1972
Ballad of a Soldier-1959
Cries And Whispers-1972
The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant-1972
The Blue Angel -1930
2001: A Space Odyssey- 1968
8½ – 1963
La Règle Du Jeu- 1939
The Burmese Harp-1956